Not a dry eye in the house for playgroup graduation

Suzanne's youngest son Toby (3) graduates from playgroup

THE graduates line up nervously to receive their certificates.

Dressed in their gowns and mortarboards, one by one they enter the room to address the master of ceremonies and receive their scroll.

In the audience watching are dozens of eager, immensely proud and teary-eyed parents.

Mum is sniffling into her tissues and dad is poised - professional camera in hand - to capture that shot of their child.

The gown and mortarboard graduation ceremony used to be traditionally reserved solely for twenty-something students completing their university careers.

But in a scene reminiscent at universities across the world, it is now being re-enacted by a much younger group as more and more nurseries and playgroups adopt the practice and opt for graduation ceremonies.

Just the other day my youngest son 'graduated' from playgroup - undoubtedly a big moment in his three short years on this planet.

Undeterred at being the first child to be called to accept his certificate, my little man - kitted out in mini blue gown and mortarboard - walked up to the stage.

His cheeky smile turned a tad more cautious as he took in the enormity of 50 onlookers awaiting his entrance.

With a little bit of a wobble over to me for guidance, he made his way onto the podium where he was presented with his scroll (and a cheeky packet of sweets) to much applause from those gathered in the room.

My husband and I looked on with broad smiles and a massive sense of pride at his achievement.

A celebratory garden party afterwards, akin to the strawberries and cream following my own graduation from university, was a wonderful way of marking the end of the playgroup year for the children, their parents, grandparents and teachers.

I know I need to remind myself my son is only three - but it was one of those moments when your heart bursts with pride in what he has achieved over his playgroup year.

From the dark mornings when he would wail the whole way up to the front door of the school, to the tight grip of my leg as I tried to prise him away to the eventual sheer delight he exuded when he learned to love going to playgroup.

It has been a tough, challenging, but in the end, very rewarding year.

I know, however, there are those who don't believe in these graduation-style ceremonies for children.

I read one man's comment that it was akin to donning a Harry Potter-esque gown and hat, holding a fake scroll aloft and posing for the obligatory pictures - just because, he says, the child had played nicely all year.

It's a trend that first started in the United States, which has in recent years spread over here with many nursery schools jumping on the American bandwagon and embracing graduation ceremonies for three and four-year-old children.

Views on whether there is any point to these nursery graduation ceremonies at such a young age are split.

Some people think it's a cute way of marking the start of a new chapter in a child’s life, while others believe it only serves to water down the significance of awards and rewards.

Passing the nursery or playgroup stage of life is hardly on the same level of significance as graduating at university.

But all ceremonies, no matter what age the participant is, have importance.

For little ones, it's leaving toddlerhood behind for the 'big school', it's about celebrating a child's completion of pre-school and their individual development.

They have completed their first taste of a school setting and will embark on the next level, where they will learn, grow and participate for many years to come.

Of course it's not a proper graduation, but there's the whole aspirational side of it that's important.

It's a happy day - the start of the next part of their young lives and an important celebration of a childhood milestone.

It gives children, even tiny ones, a sense that they can do and achieve things in life.


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